Skip to main content

Full text of "The Erdkinder and the Functions of the University"

See other formats


THE "ERDKINDER" 

and 

THE FUNCTIONS OF THE UNIVERSITY 



THE REFORM OF EDUCATION 
DURING AND AFTER ADOLESCENCE 



By 
Dr. Maria Montessori 



with forward by Mario M. Montessori 



INTRODUCTION 



Education in Dr. Maria Montessori's conception was not an episode of life: it starts at birth and 
lasts as long as life lasts. It is conceived not merely as a "transmission of culture," but as a help 
to life in all its expressions. 

During the first period, the life of the individual is a succession of psychosomatic transformations. 
Each phase of development, even physical, is governed by corresponding transformations of the 
psyche, by special tendencies. Dr. Montessori called these "Sensitive Periods". They are very 
intense while they last and ensure, even against hindering obstacles, the acquisition of new 
characteristics. Each new acquisition gives rise to new needs and therefore to new problems for 
the educator. Dr. Montessori took these needs and tendencies into consideration, making them, 
rather than the subjects of culture, the center of her educative program. Culture, however, is 
intensified in the Montessori Method as compared to the syllabus covered in ordinary schools. 
The cultural items which are distributed according to the difficulties they present to the individual 
who must absorb and memorize them in a passive way, are in the Montessori Method, given at 
all ages. So geography, history, arithmetic, natural science, etc., are given under different forms 
according to the different sensitive periods of the child's development: sensorially in the period of 
the development of the senses (3-6) and under other suitable forms in the successive periods. 
Moreover, in the Montessori Method the individual is not a passive listener, but an active worker. 
Each subject is absorbed, during the period up to 12 years of age, with so great enthusiasm and 
energy that it often includes much of the culture generally given in secondary schools. 

These planes of education continue to consider the life of the individual as a whole and, while 
giving culture, provide as well for the physical, moral and social aspects of life, taking advantage 
of the sensibilities peculiar to these ages and corresponding to the very special needs of the 
individual during the critical period of adolescence. 

MARIO M. MONTESSORI 



'THE ERDKI NDER" 
A SCHEME FOR A REFORM OF SECONDARY EDUCATI ON 



The need which is so keenly felt for a reform of secondary schools concerns not only an 
educational, but also a human and social problem. This can be summed up in one sentence: 
Schools as they are today, are adapted neither to the needs of adolescence nor to the times in 
which we live. Society has not only developed into a state of utmost complication and extreme 
contrasts, but it has now come to a crisis in which the peace of the world and civilization itself is 
threatened. The crisis is certainly connected with the immense progress that has been made in 
science and its practical applications, but it has not been caused by them. More than anything it 
is due to the fact that the development of man himself has not kept pace with that of the 
external environment. 

While material progress has been extremely rapid and social life has been completely 
transformed, the schools have remained in a kind of arrested development, organized in a way 
that cannot have been well suited even to the needs of the past, but that today is actually in 
contrast with human progress. The reform of the secondary school may not solve all the 
problems of our times, but it is certainly a necessary step, and a practical, though limited, 
contribution to the great reconstruction of society. Everything that concerns education assumes 
today an importance of a general kind, and must represent a protection and a practical aid to the 
development of the individual; that is to say, it must aim at improving the individual in order to 
improve society. 

But, above all it is the education of adolescents that is important, because adolescence is the 
time when the child enters on the state of manhood and becomes a member of society. If 
puberty is on the physical side a transition from an infantile to an adult state, there is also, on 
the psychological side, a transition from the child who has to live in a family, to the adult who 
has to live in society. These two needs of the adolescent: for protection during the time of the 
difficult physical transition, and for an understanding of the society which he is about to enter to 
play his part, give rise to two problems that are of equal importance concerning education at this 
age. 

If we must specify which of the social circumstances of our time has the greatest effect on the 
problems which we are considering, we should say that it is the fact that the future seems 
insecure and full of unknown factors. The material world is in the process of rapid evolution and 
contains the dangers and uncertainties of a new adjustment. We have lost that "security" which 
we had in the past; we need only think of the difference between the times when crafts were 
handed on peacefully from father to son, and the confusion of sudden, unexpected training that 
causes the necessity for "vocational guidance". Equally in the field of manual work, as in the 
intellectual professions (although somewhat later there), that certainty of a good post is lost, 
which should be the reward of completed studies and a special training. Such an assured future 
can no longer be provided for the young people by the family as it used to be in the past. The 
state, at present, is no longer certain of ensuring the future employment of those citizens 
destined to superior professions in the same way as it did in the past, by providing unilateral, 
exclusive, schools with specialized training. Nowadays the world is partly in a state of 
disintegration and partly in a state of reconstruction. It is the alternation of progress and 
regression that produces this characteristic instability. The world is like a piece of land that is 
going through the vicissitudes of a settlement of the soil. 

Such being the condition of society, we ought to remember that there is one thing that education 
can take as a sure guide, and that is the personality of the children who are to be educated. 

It is necessary that human personality should be prepared for the unforeseen, not only for the 
conditions that can be foreseen by prudence and foresight. Nor should it be strictly conditioned 
by one rigid specialization, but should develop at the same time the power of adapting itself 



'THE ERDKI NDER" 
A SCHEME FOR A REFORM OF SECONDARY EDUCATI ON 

quickly and easily. In this fierce battle of civil life one must have strong character and quick wits 
as well as courage: one must be strengthened in one's principles by moral training and must also 
have practical ability in order to face the difficulties of life. Adaptability- this is the most 
essential quality: for the progress of the world is continually opening new careers, and at the 
same time closing or revolutionizing the traditional types of employment. 

This does not mean that in secondary schools, there should be no preparation for the intellectual 
professions, and still less that "culture" should be neglected. On the contrary, education must be 
very wide and very thorough, and not only in the case of the professional intellectuals, but for all 
who are living at a time that is characterized by the progress of science and its technical 
applications. Now, even laborers need education. They must understand the complex problems 
of our times, otherwise they are just a pair of hands acting without seeing what relation their 
work has in the pattern of society. Such as they are today, they may be said to have no head 
while the intellectuals of today are all cripples as long as their hands remain useless. Their spirit 
will dry up if the grandeur of the practical reality of our days is completely shut away from them, 
as if it did not exist. The ones with hands and no head, and the ones with head and no hands 
are equally out of place in the modern community. 

The problem of reforming the secondary schools will not be solved by cutting down "culture", nor 
by losing sight of the necessity of training for the intellectual professions. But it is essential that 
this training should not turn out young people who have been lulled to sleep by a false sense of 
security, who are incapable of confronting the unforeseen difficulties of real life, and who are 
totally ignorant of conditions in the world in which they are destined to live. Not long ago 
outdoor sports were introduced in order to provide physical exercise for the young people who 
were leading shut-in, sedentary lives; so, today, there is a need for a more dynamic training of 
character and the development of a clearer consciousness of social reality. 

The secondary schools as they are at present constituted do not concern themselves with 
anything but the preparation for a career, as if the social conditions of the time were still 
peaceful and secure. They do not take any special care for the personality of the children, nor 
do they give all of the special physical care that is necessary during the period of adolescence. 
Thus not only do they not correspond to the social conditions of our day, but they fail to protect 
the principal energy on which the future depends: human energy, the power of individual 
personality. Young people in the secondary schools are compelled to study as a "duty" or a 
"necessity". They are not working with interest nor any definite aims that could be immediately 
fulfilled and would give them satisfaction and a renewed interest in the continuous effort. They 
are directed by an external and illogical compulsion, and all their best individual energy is 
wasted. Adolescents and young people almost right up to maturity are treated like babies in the 
elementary schools. At fourteen or sixteen they are still subjected to the petty threats of "bad 
marks" with which the teachers weigh up the work of boys and girls by a method that is just like 
that of measuring the material weight of lifeless objects with the mechanical aid of a balance. 
The work is "measured" like inanimate matter, not "judged" as a product of life. 

And on these marks the future of the student depends. So study becomes a heavy and crushing 
load that burdens the young life instead of being felt as the privilege of initiation to the 
knowledge that is the pride of our civilization. The young people, the people of the future, are 
formed into a mold of narrowness, artificiality and egotism. What a wretched life of endless 
penance, of futile renunciation of their dearest aspirations! 

Another remark to be made of the secondary schools as they are at present constituted is that 
they hinder the physical development of the adolescents. The period of life in which physical 
maturity is attained is a delicate and difficult time, because of the rapid development and change 
which the organism must go through. The human organism becomes so delicate that doctors 



'THE ERDKI NDER" 
A SCHEME FOR A REFORM OF SECONDARY EDUCATI ON 

consider this time to be comparable to the period of birth and rapid growth in the first years 
thereafter. There exists a particular predisposition to certain diseases and certain forms of 
weakness, which are collectively referred to as "adolescent complaints". The predisposition to 
tuberculosis is a special danger during the transition from childhood to the adult stage. 

From the psychological viewpoint also this is a critical age. There are doubts and hesitations, 
violent emotions, discouragement and an unexpected decrease of intellectual capacity. The 
difficulty of studying with concentration is not due to a lack of willingness, but is really a 
psychological characteristic of the age. The assimilative and memorizing powers of the intellect 
which give young children such an interest in details and in material objects seem to change their 
nature. The chief symptom of adolescence is a state of expectation, a tendency towards creative 
work and a need for the strengthening of self-confidence. Suddenly the child becomes very 
sensitive to the rudeness and humiliations which he had previously suffered with patient 
indifference. These reactions, bitter rebellious feelings, sometimes give rise to characters that 
are morally abnormal; while this is the time, the "sensitive period" when there should develop 
the most noble characteristics that would prepare a man to be social, that is to say, a sense of 
justice and a sense of personal dignity. It is just because this is the time when the social 
individual is created, but has yet reached full development, that in this epoch practically every 
defect in adjustment to social life originates. These defects may have very dangerous results, 
either for the future of the individual (timidity, anxiety, depression, inferiority complex), or for 
society (incapacity to work, laziness, dependence on others, or cynicism and criminality). And all 
these dangers that spring from the very nature of humanity become still more serious at a time 
when social life is so disturbed and uncertain as it is at present. 

There are therefore two different groups of difficulties which must be considered: 

1. Those concerning the present form of society. 

2. Those concerning the vital needs of the adolescent. 

Life must not remain an "unknown quantity" so that the eventual orphan feels lost, or the 
immigrant has to seek his safety in the exercise of his one special capacity, in despair because its 
application may be impossible. For success in life depends in every case on self-confidence, and 
the knowledge of one's own capacity and many-sided powers of adaptation. The consciousness 
of knowing how to make oneself useful, how to help mankind in many ways, fills the soul with 
noble confidence, with almost religious dignity. The feeling of independence must be bound to 
the power to be self-sufficient, not a vague form of liberty deducted from the help afforded by 
the gratuitous benevolence of others. There are two "faiths" which can uphold humans: faith in 
God, and faith in oneself. And these two faiths should exist side by side: the first belongs to 
one's inner life, the second to one's life in society. 

REFORMS THAT ARE I N RELATI ON WITH THE SOCIAL LI FE OF TODAY. 

The essential reform is this: to put the adolescent on the road to achieving economic 
independence. We might call it a "school of experience in the elements of social life". 

This "independence" has more educational than practical value; that is to say, it has a closer 
connection with the psychology of the adolescent than an eventual actual utility. So, even if a 
child were so rich that personal economic security seemed above all the vicissitudes of life the 
child would still derive great personal benefit from being initiated in economic independence. For 
this would result in a "valorization" of the child's personality, in making him feel capable of 
succeeding in life by his own efforts and on his own merits, and at the same time being put in 



'THE ERDKI NDER" 
A SCHEME FOR A REFORM OF SECONDARY EDUCATI ON 

direct contact with the supreme reality of social life. We speak therefore of letting them earn 
money by their own work. If we believe that "charity" is beneath the dignity of a person, and in 
our modern institutions we give the beggar the chance of earning what is received, why should 
the same principle not be applied to the young people who are receiving the benefit of 
education, which could be called a form of State charity. 

But the word "work" must have a particular interpretation in this case. The expression "work for 
wages" at once suggests a trade and implies technical training and competition. This work 
should, instead, be an exercise of "utilized virtues", of "super-values" and "skills" acquired 
outside the limits of one's own particular specialization, past or future. 

This conception of work implies a general principle that holds the work itself to be of greater 
importance than the kind of work. All work is noble, the only ignoble thing is to live without 
working. There is need to realize the value of work in all its forms whether manual or 
intellectual, to be called "mate", to have sympathetic understanding of all forms of activity. 
Education should therefore include the two forms of work, manual and intellectual, for the same 
person, and thus make it understood by practical experience that these two kinds complete each 
other and are equally essential to a civilized existence. 

This directly educative conception differs from a somewhat analogous practice that has existed 
for a long time in modern American schools, both secondary schools and Universities, and is 
called "Self-Help". This began with the work of a woman, Mary Lyons, 1837, and has the 
exclusively practical purpose of making it possible for poor students of good will who want to be 
taught, to earn with their own work the fees for their tuition, instead of having to depend on 
scholarships which are necessarily limited in number. This practical plan, which enables a larger 
number of intelligent people to have the benefit of advanced education, has been put into 
operation by the schools themselves and makes a direct contribution to the benefit of youth. 
That is to say, the school itself obtains, allocates, supervises and safeguards the work done as 
"Self-Help". This work is found either within the school itself, which is easy where the school is 
residential, or else outside the school, but in some of the occupations that are connected with 
school-organization. This plan has developed very greatly in the schools of the United States; it 
is an experiment that has been crowned with success. 

"Self-Help" has shown two things: 

1. That it has great moral value, because it "rouses the conscience from the inertia" in 
which it is generally found among young people who are being passively maintained by 
their families, and teaches in a practical way the value of time and of their own powers. 

2. That the work does not hinder study, but even makes it possible to study better; in 
fact the students who are obliged to resort to "Self-Help" are generally those who turn 
out the best and most successful scholars. 

We can therefore cite the success of this experiment in support of our assertion that productive 
work and a wage that gives economic independence, or rather constitutes a first real attempt to 
achieve economic independence could be made with advantage a general principle of social 
education for adolescents and young people. 

If we consider the plan from the point of view of our own method it can be regarded as a 
development of that principle that has already had such great success in our schools for smaller 
children right down to the nursery class and known as the "Exercises in Practical Life". The 
children of 3 years of age in the Children's Houses learn and carry out such work as sweeping, 
dusting, putting things tidy, laying the table for meals, waiting at table, washing the dishes, etc., 



'THE ERDKI NDER" 
A SCHEME FOR A REFORM OF SECONDARY EDUCATI ON 

and at the same time they learn to attend to their own personal needs, to wash themselves, to 
take shower baths, to comb their hair, to take a bath, to dress and undress themselves, to hang 
up their clothes in the wardrobe, or to put them in the drawers, to polish their shoes. These 
exercises are part of the method of education, and do not depend on the social position of the 
pupils. Even in the Children's Houses attended by rich children who are given every kind of 
assistance at home, and who are accustomed to being surrounded by a crowd of attendants, 
they take part in the "Exercises of Practical Life". This has a truly educational, not a utilitarian 
purpose. The reaction of the children may be described as a "burst of independence" of all 
unnecessary assistance which suppresses their activity and prevents them from demonstrating 
their own capacities. It is just these "independent" children of ours who learn to write at the age 
of four and a half years, who learn to read spontaneously, and who amaze everyone by their 
progress in arithmetic. 

These children seem to be "precocious" in their intellectual development and they demonstrate 
that while working harder than other children they do so without tiring themselves. These very 
children revealed to us the most vital need of their development, saying: "Help me to do it 
alone!" 

Independence, in the case of the adolescents, has to be acquired on a different plane, for theirs 
is the economic independence in the field of society. Here, too, the principle of "Help me to do it 
alonei '"ought to be applied. 

This is not absolute independence; and it is very like the state of the person who, feeling himself 
dependent on God, yet must try to act, saying as if in a prayer for his own human weakness: 
"Help me to do it alone!". 



REFORMS RELATI NG TO THE VITAL NEEDS OF ADOLESCENCE 

The essential reform of our plan from this point of view may be defined as follows: during the 
difficult time of adolescence it is helpful to leave the accustomed environment of the family in the 
town and go to quiet surroundings, in the country, close to nature. Here, an open-air life, 
individual care, a non-toxic diet, must be the first considerations in organizing a "center for study 
and work". 

This theory is based on a plan that has been experimentally adopted all over the world, the 
custom of having "boarding schools" (secondary schools for adolescents) situated in places far 
from the large cities, in the country or in small towns. These boarding schools have sprung up in 
England in great numbers and for all classes, even the most privileged (Eton and Harrow) and 
the same type is found in the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Such institutions were so 
successful in England and the United States that, as everyone knows, towns were built up round 
the universities which were previously isolated. This is the case with the majority of the modern 
Universities in America. The proposal we have put forward has, therefore, nothing surprising 
about it, and there is no need of further experiment to establish the practical value of the 
principle. Life in the open air, in the sunshine, and a diet high in vitamin-content, coming from 
the produce of neighboring fields, improve the physical health, while the calm surroundings, the 
silence, the wonders of nature, satisfy the need of the adolescent mind for reflection and 
meditation. Further, in a college, the whole order of the daily life can be made to suit the 
demands of study and work, whereas the routine of family life has first to conform to the needs 
of the parents. 

But our plan is not simply a reproduction of the ordinary boarding school in the country or small 
town. For it is not the country itself that is so valuable, but work in the country, and "work" 



'THE ERDKI NDER" 
A SCHEME FOR A REFORM OF SECONDARY EDUCATI ON 

generally, with its wide social connotations of productiveness and earning power. The 
observation of nature has not only a side that is philosophical and scientific, it has also a side of 
"social experiences". That leads on to the observations of civilization and the life of people. 

By "work in the country" we do not mean that the students should be obliged to work like 
agricultural laborers. The "intensive methods" of modern agriculture produce wonders as great 
as nature itself. The "improvement on nature" produced not by labor alone, but by the 
inventiveness of man with the help of the sciences appears to be a kind of "super creation" due 
to the labor of civilization. The first stage of civilization is just that the transformation of "nature" 
to a higher level of beauty and usefulness in her products, and of an apparently miraculous use 
of the secrets of nature. This is truly a "super-nature" devised by man. This super-nature 
includes the great scientific progress in biology and in chemistry, and a consecutive progress of 
succeeding generations that makes one wonder at the greatness of humanity as well as the 
greatness of God. 

Therefore work on the land is an introduction both to Nature and to Civilization, and gives a 
limitless field for scientific and historical studies. If the produce can be used commercially this 
brings in the fundamental mechanism of society, that of production and exchange, on which 
economic life is based. This means that there is an opportunity to learn both academically and 
through actual experience what are the elements of social life. 

We have called these children the "Erdkinder" because they are leaning about civilization through 
its origin in agriculture. 

They are the "Land-children". They are learning of the beginning of civilization which occurred 
when the tribes settled on the land and began a life of peace and progress while the nomads 
remained barbarians and warriors. An immense ideal: that of civilization that unfolds in the 
environment of nature ought to uplift the kind of life to be led by these "novices of society". J ust 
as nature is brought by the labor of man to a higher degree of beauty and usefulness so man 
must raise himself to a state that is higher than his natural state, and the "Land-child" must see 
that society is in a state of "ascent from nature" in which he, as a civilized and religious man, 
must play his part. 

The school where the children live, or rather their country "homes" can also give them the 
opportunity for "social experience," for it is an institution organized on a larger scale and with 
greater freedom than the family. This organization could take the form of a private hotel as far 
as the management and control are concerned. In some ways it could be regarded as a real 
hotel, or the "Land-children's Hostel". By taking part in the administration the young people 
could gain experience of hotel-keeping in all its various branches, of organization for comfort and 
order and the least effort in maintenance, of countless other responsibilities and of the financial 
side. Indeed, if little children are capable of keeping the house clean and tidy, of waiting at 
table, of washing dishes, or taking care of small pottery, etc., the adolescents can easily learn to 
run a hotel; a career which nowadays has special schools of instruction. The hotel-keeping can 
also be extended from their own hostel to other simple "hotels" where the relations of the 
student could come to stay for a few days, to find out how their children are living, and by 
choosing this place to spend a short and pleasant holiday, could make a contribution towards the 
economic support of the institution. 

The hotel run on modern lines, with artistic simplicity and with gaiety and free from artificial 
constraint, should provide an interesting and pleasant form of occupation, and an opportunity for 
developing good taste and efficiency in domestic matters. 



'THE ERDKI NDER" 
A SCHEME FOR A REFORM OF SECONDARY EDUCATI ON 

Finally we should like to suggest another institution which might become of great importance, 
and that is the "shop". A shop or store could be established in the nearest big town, and here 
the "land-children" could easily bring and sell the produce of the fields and garden, and other 
things that they had made. Eventually they might also collect and bring things made by other 
people who are poor and know some craft and can produce pretty or useful objects of which 
they could not dispose commercially in the usual way. This would be real "social work" and 
would encourage those small village industries which are being lost today through the prevalence 
of machinery and mass production. This trade could have special effect in preserving something 
of a past age when personality could be expressed in the construction of the simplest objects. 

The Shop itself could be regarded as a revival of the medieval exchange which as a general 
meeting place and social center, which was beautifully decorated, and blessed and consecrated 
by religion, and where buying and selling were conducted with scrupulous honesty. This was 
also a place where the small tradesman could make those individual bargains which are also the 
beginnings of acquaintance and the foundation of friendship and build up social life. I n times 
gone by the churches themselves were places of business, and so were the streets, where the 
scanty traffic left enough space for goods to be exposed for sale when only small transactions 
were made. Many reminders still exist of the old custom of mixing up trace with friendship and 
personal contacts. And this custom could be re-established by the young people with the 
happiness, enthusiasm and their desire for every kind of experience. 

The shop would also necessitate a genuine study of commerce and exchange, of the art of 
ascertaining the demand and being ready to meet it, of the strict and rigid rules of bookkeeping. 
But the thing that is important above everything else is that the adolescent should have a life of 
activity and variety, and that one occupation should act as a "holiday" from another occupation. 
The shop would be in respect to the studies of economics and politics an educational object, 
similar to the aquarium or terrarium in the case of the study of biology. 



PLAN OF STUDI ES AND WORK 

It is impossible to fix "a prior" a detailed program for study and work, we can only give the 
general plan. This is because a program should only be drawn up gradually under the guidance 
of experience. 

Study need not be restricted by the curricula of existing secondary schools and still less need we 
make use of their "methods" of dealing with the children or instilling culture. We must say at 
once that the aim should be to widen education instead of restricting it. Our reform is one of the 
distribution of culture and methods of teaching. 

The plan aims above all at "valorization of the personality" in the present social conditions. It 
should not be restricted to consider exclusively the specialized training that will ensure a well- 
paid post in the future. It is quite obvious that the necessity for such specialization exists and 
must be considered, but only as means, as a practical method of becoming a member of society, 
not as an end to which must be sacrificed both the values of the individual and his feeling of 
responsibility towards society as a whole. 

There are two principles to be considered: 

1. That for rest it is not necessary to resort to "holidays" which are a waste of time and 
break the continuity of life. Holidays or rest are simply a change of occupation and 
surroundings, and this can be provided by a variety of occupations and interests. 



'THE ERDKI NDER" 
A SCHEME FOR A REFORM OF SECONDARY EDUCATI ON 

2. That study is the response to a "need" of the intelligence and if based upon the 
psychic nature, it does not weary, but refreshes and strengthens the mind during its 
development. 

These two principles have been already demonstrated in the Children's Houses where the work 
and study did not result in fatigue, but in an increase of energy so marked that these 
indefatigable babies were found to be working at home as well as at school. The hours in the 
first Children's Houses were from 8 in the morning until 6 in the evening, yet the children would 
take away the material from the school so that they could continue to work at home. This 
should all the more be found among young people, with immense advantage, both for culture 
and education. To obtain such a result it is necessary to "second nature" by responding to the 
special needs of development that are experienced at different ages and therefore consider 
separately: 

1. The moral and physical care of the pupils; 

2. The syllabus and methods of studies 

Moral and physical care of boys and girls 

"Moral care" here refers to the relation between the children, the teachers and the environment. 
The teachers must have the greatest respect for the young personality, realizing that in the soul 
of the adolescent, great values are hidden, and that in the minds of these boys and girls there 
lies all our hope of future progress and the judgment of ourselves and our times. The intimate 
vocation of MAN is the secret of the adolescent. If social progress is realized through the 
succession of the generations, then these children, as they grow up, will become more highly 
developed than their adult teachers. In every boy and girls there can be seen a reflection of the 
picture of Jesus in the Temple who amazed the old men with his wisdom, and who forgot his 
earthly parents in the realization of his bond with a Father in Heaven. But the rest of the story 
must not be forgotten either: . . ." And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and 
was subject unto them" while he was preparing for his future mission. 

The respect for the children is of the greatest importance and must be observed in practice. The 
adolescent must never be treated as a child, for that is a stage of life that he has surpassed. It 
is better to treat an adolescent as if he had greater value than he actually shows than as if he 
had less and let him feel that his merits and self-respect are disregarded. 

Young people must have enough freedom to allow them to act on individual initiative. But in 
order that individual action should be free and useful at the same time it must be restricted 
within certain limits and rules which give the necessary guidance. These rules and restrictions 
must be those of the whole institution, not forced on separate individuals as though they had no 
sense of responsibility and were incapable of conforming of their own free will to necessary 
regulations. The rules must be just those that are necessary and sufficient to maintain order and 
ensure progress. 

The organization must be determined because it is necessary to develop the power of self- 
adjustment to the environment as it is found, and this adaptation results in cooperation and a 
happy social life which will facilitate individual progress. 

The environment must make the "free choice" of occupation easy, and therefore eliminate the 
waste of time and energy in following vague and uncertain preferences. 



'THE ERDKI NDER" 
A SCHEME FOR A REFORM OF SECONDARY EDUCATI ON 

From all this the result will be not only "self-discipline" but a proof that self-discipline is one 
aspect of individual liberty and the chief factor of success in life. 

A very important matter is the fundamental "order" in the succession of occupations during the 
day, and the times for the "change-over". This should be experimental at first and develop into 
an established thing: Necessities will arise and will have to be dealt with and this will tend to 
create an organization. But it is necessary to consider not only the active occupations but the 
need for solitude and quiet, which are essential for the development of the hidden treasures of 
the soul. 

The physical care must include special attention to the physiological condition of adolescence. 
This is a time of crisis during which all the glands of internal secretion are affected, and, through 
them, the whole organism. The body is growing rapidly but not at a uniform rate, and this 
results in a disturbance of functional equilibrium. In the first period the legs are growing far 
more quickly than anything else, especially the body and chest, and there is consequently a 
strain on the heart and lungs which results in palpitations and diminished pulmonary resistance. 
Nor has the muscular strength developed in proportion to the height due to the increase in the 
length of the legs. It is possible to divide the period of physical adolescence roughly into three 
periods: 

1. development of the legs. 

2. development of the body, especially the chest, 

3. development of muscular strength. 

As these changes take place in short successive periods of about two years it is a good thing to 
watch the growth of the adolescent, to take anthropometrical measurements and to examine the 
heart and lungs periodically even when the boy or girl appears to be perfectly healthy. 

Special attention must be given to the diet. A non-toxic food rich in vitamins and sugar is 
suitable for this age. 

Food should be plentiful and nourishing, but no meat should be given, only vegetarian products, 
including raw vegetables and specially fruit, accompanied by milk, milk-derivatives and eggs. 
Home-grown vegetables and fruit that have thoroughly ripened on the tree are treasures that 
can only be had by those who live in the country. The stale vegetables and artificially ripened 
fruit that are obtainable in the towns are far less valuable and do not contain all that is needed. 

The poisons of common consumption, alcohol and nicotine, must be withheld from the 
adolescent; in their place sweets may be allowed, for sugar is a very important food, as it is in 
the case of small children. 

Life in the open air and sunshine, bathing and swimming, must be made use of to the greatest 
possible extent, as if in a sanatorium. 

For the time when the body is under-developed it is better to live in flat country where long 
walks may be taken, either by the sea or in the woods, rather than in hilly country: not that it is 
bad in itself, but there is a danger of straining the heart by climbing. 



EDUCATION: SYLLABUS AND METHODS 

The educational syllabus can be drawn up on a general plan which divides it into three parts: 



'THE ERDKI NDER" 
A SCHEME FOR A REFORM OF SECONDARY EDUCATI ON 

1. The opening up of ways of expression, which through exercises and external aids will 
help the difficult development of the personality. 

2. The fulfillment of those fundamental needs which we believe to be "formative forces" 
in the evolution of the soul of man. 

3. The theoretical knowledge and practical experience that will make the individual a 
part of the civilization of the day (General Education). 

Part One: The opportunities for Self- Expression 

For this purpose there would be all kinds of artistic occupations open to free choice both as to 
the time and the nature of the work. Some must be for the individual and some would require 
the cooperation of a group. They would involve artistic and linguistic ability and imagination, and 
include: 

Music. Auditions where the children learn to recognize the composition, its composer and the 

period, as is done in literary studies. 

Choral singing. 

Practice in playing instruments, both solo and in orchestras. 

Language. Diction, elocution. 

Acting of stories or poems. 

Practice in making speeches and in logically presenting ideas, debates and discussions. 

Practice in public speaking so as to be audible and hold the attention of the audience. 

Open discussions where they can present their own ideas. 

Art. Drawing 

Modeling (in plasticine etc.) either for: 

Ornamental design. 

Reproduction of nature. 

Creative work of the imagination. 
This work is not to be considered as a proper training in art, but a means of giving expression to 
individual aesthetic feeling with special reference to handwork and to the learning of modern 
techniques. 

Part Two: Education in relation to Psychic Development 

The "formative" education that will construct firm foundations for the character consists of three 
subjects: Moral Education, Mathematics and Languages. 

Moral Educations the source of that spiritual equilibrium on which everything else depends and 
which may be compared to that physical equilibrium or sense of balance, without which it is 
impossible to stand upright or to move into any other position. 

Mathematics are necessary because intelligence today is no longer natural but mathematical, and 
without development and education in Mathematics it is impossible to understand or take any 
part in the special forms of progress characteristic of our times. A person without mathematical 
training today is like an illiterate in the times when everything depended on literary culture. But 
even in the natural state the human mind has a mathematical bent, tending to be exact, to make 
measurements and comparisons, and to use its limited powers to discover the nature of the 
various "effects" which Nature presents to man while she conceals from him the world of causes. 
Because of this vital importance of Mathematics the school must use special methods for 



10 



'THE ERDKI NDER" 
A SCHEME FOR A REFORM OF SECONDARY EDUCATI ON 

teaching it, and make clear and comprehensible its elements with the help of plenty of apparatus 
that demonstrates the "materialized abstractions" of Mathematics. 

Language. The development of language is part of the development of the personality for words 
are the natural means of expressing thoughts and establishing understanding between people. 
In the past one language was enough, but today it is a social convention that education should 
include the ability to read and write correctly in several languages. 

Part Three: Education as the Preparation for Life 

General education may be classified in three groups: 

1. The study of the earth and of living things, that is geology, geography (including the 
prehistorical periods), biology and cosmology, botany, zoology, physiology, astronomy, 
comparative anatomy. 



2. The study of human progress and the building up of civilizations connection with physics and 
chemistry, mechanics, engineering, genetics. The instruction given must be scientifically correct 
and must be related to simple everyday facts so that it can always be tested and confirmed by 
observation or experiment. From this basis it will become possible to understand more 
complicated matters that cannot be demonstrated in the school. The theory should alternate 
with the practical work in order to give it wider application and make it more interesting. 

The school should posses a "museum of machinery". The machines must be of suitable size so 
that the children can take them down and reassemble them, also use and repair them. A 
philosophical reflection arises from this; that is, that machines have given man powers far 
greater than is natural for him, and that man can only develop as he advances in his work of 
developing civilization. The man of "super-natural" powers can see, through lenses, things that 
are minutely small or remotely distant, and can calculate mathematically, through a "super- 
natural" or artificial development of his brain, the exact nature of events that are completely 
inaccessible and even unimaginable to primitive man. 

So, today, man can listen to voices that come from tremendous distances and can measure the 
waves that make these communications possible. 

Through machinery man can exert tremendous powers, almost as fantastic as if he were the 
hero of a fairy tale. Through machinery man can travel with an ever increasing velocity, he can 
fly through the air and go beneath the surface of the ocean. So that civilized man is becoming 
more and more "super-natural" and the social environment progresses correspondingly. If 
education does not help a man to take part in this "super-natural" world he must remain an 
"extra-social" being. The super-natural man is the King of the Earth, of all things visible and 
invisible, he penetrates the "secrets" of life growing new flowers and breeding new animals 
which are supercreations, increasing through chemistry the natural produce of the earth, 
transforming things as though by magical powers. These are the proofs of the greatness of 
collective humanity: each man may add something to them. But works of art are the products of 
the genius of isolated individuals, gifted with natural powers superior to those of others. 

These and other similar ideas which will awaken a realization of the power of man and the 
greatness of civilization should be presented in a form that will stir genuine emotion, for feelings 
of this kind should exist today together with the feelings of Religion and patriotism. For in our 
times science has created a "new world" in which the whole of humanity is joined together by a 
universal scientific culture. 



11 



'THE ERDKI NDER" 
A SCHEME FOR A REFORM OF SECONDARY EDUCATI ON 



The children should learn to use machines habitually as part of their education. 

The machine is like an extra adaptable limb of modern man; it is the slave of civilization. But 
beware, for the man of ill-will may be rendered dangerous by machinery; his influence may 
become unlimited as the speed of communication increases. Therefore a new morality, 
individual and social, must be our chief consideration in this new world. This morality must give 
us new ideas about good and evil, and the responsibilities towards humanity that individuals 
incur, when they assume powers so much greater than those with which they are naturally 
endowed. 



3 . The study of the history of mankind 

This should be treated as far as possible as a complete whole, from which "special periods" can 
be chosen for individual study. The available material should include a library of books on the 
subject, geographical atlases and a History Museum containing pictures, portraits, reproductions 
of historical documents and prehistoric objects. 

The part of history that is most important during the first period of adolescence is the history of 
scientific discoveries and of geographical explorations. Accounts should be given of the most 
important inventions accompanied by pictures of social life before and after the discovery. This 
would show how men have improved through civilization. 

Another aspect of history (suitable during the next period) is that which deals with the effect on 
humanity of the geographical environment, of contact between different peoples, of the 
intermarriage of races and the assimilation of special cultures. The wars and conquests of 
empires should be studied in relation to their ideals and moral standards, and the influence of 
religion and patriotism on human behavior should be observed. These studies should consider 
that uplifting of the inner life of humanity towards tendencies which grow ever less in cruelty and 
violence, and strive to form ever wider groups of associated individuals. 

Special Subjects. Besides these general reviews of the subject a detailed study should be made 
of one period, event, or the life of some personage who has aroused special interest. This would 
involve the consultation and comparison of documents, chronicles, and portraits until a real 
understanding of the subject has been achieved. 

In addition a special study should be made on "The present day and the Nation," including the 
constitution, the laws, its special merits and moral characteristics. This study should be 
plentifully illustrated by references to current literature and by visits to places which have an 
historical importance. 



PRACTI CAL CONSI DERATI ONS 

The realization of such a far-reaching scheme can only be achieved by slow degrees. Any child 
who has attended the elementary school may be admitted, not only the pupils of any special 
school. The school is intended for normal children, but those who are slow or backward, 
suffering from some psychological maladjustment (mental barriers, timidity) may be admitted 
with the certainty that they will benefit and show real improvement. 



12 



'THE ERDKI NDER" 
A SCHEME FOR A REFORM OF SECONDARY EDUCATI ON 

Boys and girls may be accommodated in one hostel: but in this case its management should be 
given to a married couple, House-Father and House-Mother, who would develop a moral and 
protective action on the conduct of the children. 

A large estate, possibly including woods, or near to the sea would be the most suitable place. A 
number of teachers should be allowed to live in the school in return for taking part in directing 
the daily work of the institution. Strict discipline in everything that effects the daily life and the 
aims of the school must be enforced on the staff attached to the school as well as on the 
students who will only learn to adjust themselves to the demands of an ordered environment. 
This means that the staff must take the responsibility for maintaining order until the order of 
voluntary self-discipline is established. 

There must also be young visiting teachers, men and women who come to give lessons. These 
should have the proper qualification for teaching in secondary schools, but this does not mean 
that they should be free to use their own methods, for they must agree to adopt special methods 
and cooperate in the experiment. Therefore those teachers should be young and open-minded, 
ready to take part in a new experiment and ready to make their own personal contributions. 
There should not be too many, rather the minimum number who can undertake a group of 
related subjects, which can be subsequently separated according to the needs of the school. 

Besides the teachers of ordinary subjects there must also be technical instructors. For instance, 
an instructor for agriculture and gardening, a business manager for the shop and the hotel and a 
handicraft teacher. Other members of the staff must be specially qualified in practical work, in 
cooking, or sewing and mending, and should include an intelligent handyman capable of giving 
instruction in various trades while he helps in the daily work. So that just as the children in our 
elementary schools have already learnt to fold their clothes and to sew etc., so here they must 
learn "to put things right" when necessary; to adjust a machine or the engine of a car, to mend a 
broken window or the catch of a door. They should also be able to make a path, build a shed, 
chop firewood and so on. 

It may be asked: 'how are they to earn money?" This cannot be done directly, and it will always 
be a different matter for the children to make money during their training. There must be some 
adult workers who will start the concern, show how the work is done, and allow the children by 
degrees to do their share in the organization and accounting as well as in the actual work. There 
should be a modern farm or a market-garden where flowers are grown for sale, and this may be 
taken over as a going concern. So also the Shop might be started by a voluntary committee of 
adults, possibly the relatives of the children - an analogous organization to those which are 
formed for the encouragement of handicrafts. One grown-up person should take the 
responsibility for the organization. But the children can take turns to give real help in the work, 
and they will make the place attractive by their youth and happiness as well as by their industry 
and resourcefulness. And so the business would develop little by little through the cooperation 
of the parents, the instructors and the children themselves. 

MARIA MONTESSORI 



13 



THE FUNCTIONS OF THE UNIVERSITY 



Among educational institutions we can clearly distinguish two categories of schools: one for children and 
adolescents, another, the university, which is meant for adults. 

If we consider the natural development of the human individual, the "preparation of the organism" is 
completed by the end of the 18 th year, when the age of adolescence is over. The law recognizes this 
physical maturity by allowing marriage at that age. At 21 one becomes free of guardianship and is 
declared to be of age. 

Usually the student enters the University after the 18th year and remains there some two or three years 
after being of age: the University therefore can be said to be really a school for adults. 

This purely physiological consideration concerning its students places the University in a position which is 
different from that of all other schools. I n its constitution, however, the University shows no marked 
change from other schools, it is but their continuation. The student continues to follow lessons, to listen 
to professors, to take examinations, and, as formerly, the success of his studies depends on the marks 
he receives. The only difference is that the University students are not strictly held to say lessons or to 
do homework, whereas they have been accustomed to forced work under continuous control. This 
means that, as at the University this control is lifted, the students study less. Another particular pointing 
to the same fact is that University students enjoy very long vacations. For the rest, they continue, as in 
the preceding schools years, to be economically dependent upon their families. It is from the point of 
view of the family budget that the parents watch the success of the studies as shown by promotion and 
good marks. The result is that at the University there are adults who live under the same conditions as 
children, with the difference that their physical maturity gives rise to problems which often find their 
solution in a secret life of immorality. 

I n the Middle Ages the University bore a stamp of grandeur and dignity. There were centers of studies 
such as the famous University of Bologna, whither students came from the different countries of Europe 
and the different Italian states. 

The students had a feeling of intellectual responsibility towards their own nation or state which, in its 
turn, was proud to be able to count among the students of the University some of its citizens. The 
University of Bologna put upon the walls of its Forum, richly reproduced in enamel and gold, the coat of 
arms of the cities and states represented by its different students. 

The students took part in philosophical and political discussions which encouraged them to realize their 
own values and moral responsibility. The great learning and renown of the professors, their ermine 
cloaks, the solemn functions were a permanent proof of the special dignity of those centers. At those 
universities there were no examinations except the academic one which conferred the degree. The 
students pursued their studies with intensity, urged to acquire the treasures of knowledge and hoarded 
their years of study, taking full advantage of every hour. The festivals at the universities which bore the 
stamp of art were public events. 

The Universities were then, in reality, the "Centers of Culture" whence civilization was transmitted all 
over the world, the students becoming its propagators. 

But today Universities are not the only centers from which culture emanates. Today civilization and 
culture are spread everywhere by other means which become always more extensive and easy. Culture 
expands through the Press and other rapid communications which bring about a universal leveling. 

So, the universities have gradually become ordinary professional schools, distinguishing themselves from 
other schools only by their more advanced culture. But they have lost the dignity and distinction which 
made them a central instrument of progress and civilization. Students whose aim is merely to reach a 



14 



THE FUNCTIONS OF THE UNIVERSITY 

simple and obscure personal position can no longer feel that lofty mission towards an ever greater 
progress of humanity, which once formed the "spirit of the University". The common object of the 
students has become that of evading work as much as possible. Their principal aim is almost exclusively 
that of passing examinations anyhow, and of taking the degree which will serve their individual interest, 
so, while there has been a progress in culture so great as to transform civil life, the Universities 
themselves have suffered a decline. The real centers of progress today are the Laboratories of Scientific 
Research, open to a very limited number and far removed from the level of common culture. 

Schools today are generally felt to be in decline not because the culture given is inferior, but because the 
schools no longer correspond in their organization to the needs of the present time, and stay below the 
level achieved by civilization. The latter, today, has so changed its material bases that it is really the 
beginning of a new civilization, while the life of man has not yet found its adaption to the new conditions. 

This is what renders so critical the present period of human history; and the problems of a reform of 
education today lie in finding the means to render possible the new adaptation which is needed. 

Education should not limit itself to seeking new methods for an arid transmission of knowledge: its aim 
must be to give the necessary aid to human development. This world, marvelous in its material power, 
needs a "new man". It is therefore the life of man and its values, that must be considered. If "the 
formation of man" becomes the basis of education, then the coordination of all schools from infancy to 
maturity, from nursery to University, arises as a first necessity: for man is a unity, an individuality which 
passes through interdependent phases of development. Each preceding phase prepares the one that 
follows, forms its base, nurtures the energies which urge towards the succeeding period of life. 

The lack of coordination between the successive stages of education is resented as an obstacle in the 
schools even as they are today. 

Universities have their own scheme of studies; they find however that the pupils of secondary schools are 
not sufficiently prepared to follow it. Secondary schools find themselves in the same situation in regard 
to the pupils coming from elementary schools; and so they all feel the burden of an unprepared 
individuality. 

This is the case in the field of culture. But if the aim of education becomes that of achieving the 
development of the human personality rather than the narrower one of providing culture only, then a 
close coordination embracing all periods of life becomes even more essential and indispensable. Our 
experience with children in elementary schools has shown us that the age between 6 and 12 years is a 
period of life during which the elements of all sciences should be given. It is a period which 
psychologically is especially sensitive and might be called the "sensitive period of culture" during which 
the abstract plane of the human mind is organized. 

It is then that everything should be sown. 

This interesting period in the organization of the human soul could be compared to a field where the 
seed must be sown of all those plants which one wishes to flourish in the future. The aim of education 
must be that of finding all of the possible means to "plant the seeds" in the suitable epoch. Not only 
secondary schools, but also universities must interest themselves in this sowing, even if the interest in 
lower schools is felt to be out of their realm. There is nothing which is apparently further removed than 
the mechanical bustle and clanking of the machinery of a factory from the peaceful life of the field, yet 
the cloth-manufacturer must interest himself in the planting of the flax, otherwise it would be useless to 
have good manufacturing implements, because the raw material would be lacking. 

Thus it is with psychic life: there are special epochs when an inner activity lays in the soul the roots of 
the first intellectual development, calling forth enthusiastic response and awakening possibilities which 



15 



THE FUNCTIONS OF THE UNIVERSITY 

otherwise would remain dormant. And these centers of keen interest which urge towards progress 
through vivacious activity will be developed during the rest of youth. But, if on the other hand the germs 
of knowledge have not been sown in the proper season, the possibilities remain dormant, inertia and 
emptiness persist, the individual resents all forms of intellectual effort and study deteriorates. 

The failure to consider these special epochs is a sin against the laws of life, then work becomes an arid 
effort, a condemnation similar to that of Adam described in the Bible. Evidently it is not work, but work 
against nature that is condemned by the divine curse. Study, such as it is today, is a work against 
nature, so the students carry it out aridly and under compulsion without animation. A supreme 
encouragement and a radiant light would be necessary to call forth those souls which by now are 
crippled by inertia and error. But this cannot be accomplished by that arid type of school which considers 
the personality of the student so much below his real values, and continues to increase his 
discouragement and inertia. 

It is clear then, that even for culture, even for the purely intellectual fact of learning, the different 
categories of schools have a common interest. Or perhaps it would be better to say that higher schools 
must be interested in determining the way in which human energies are prepared in the lower ones. 

When this is not the case the university professors will always find themselves confronted by minds 
repelling whatever is presented to them, by indifference and inertia, by restless youths who must forcibly 
be kept together like chained goatlings. If the path of normality is followed and the University takes an 
interest in the preparation given in the lower schools, then the pupils will become ardent apostles, 
intelligent critics and almost cooperators with their professors. 

As we said, this is true for intellectual education, but cooperation is still more necessary if one wishes to 
prepare not only the intellect, but the human personality in its totality. Human life cannot be fulfilled 
only by culture. 

If one considers the question, acquisition of culture includes the idea of receptiveness; but life is not all 
receptiveness; rather it is an active and expansive energy, which endeavors to realize its own creation on 
an external environment. 

In other words, merely to study is not to live, but to live is the most essential condition in order to be 
able to study. 

We have seen this also in our experiments. Culture which has been given anyhow, and anyhow taken 
and assimilated, does not satisfy the human personality. Other needs exist which, if not satisfied, always 
cause inner conflicts, which influence the mental state and confuse the clarity of the mind. 

Joy, feeling one's own value, being appreciated and loved by others, feeling useful and capable of 
production are all factors of enormous value for the human soul. It is in its eventual action on these 
human factors and not only in the giving of culture that the new University should find a renewed dignity 
and importance in relation to civilization. 

In former times Universities were based on a moral and philosophical conception of life and on the 
"mission of man". Culture was then the splendid means given to humanity so that it could reach higher 
levels. Today, however, it is not by philosophizing nor by discussing metaphysical conceptions that the 
morals of mankind can be developed: it is by activity, by experience and by action. It is interesting to 
notice how attractive all practical actions become even during the period of development that precedes 
adolescence. 

Being active with one's own hands, having a determined practical aim to reach, is what really gives inner 
discipline. When the hand perfects itself in a work chosen spontaneously and the will to succeed is born 



16 



THE FUNCTIONS OF THE UNIVERSITY 

together with the will to overcome difficulties or obstacles; it is then, that something which differs from 
intellectual learning arises. The realization of one's own value is born in the consciousness. 

It is surprising to notice that even from the earliest age man finds the greatest satisfaction in feeling 
independent. The exalting feeling of being sufficient to oneself comes as a revelation. This is 
undoubtedly a fundamental element of social life, because when one is completely dependent upon 
others and the feeling of one's practical incapacity has become a conviction, the urge cannot arise to be 
of help or to seek the cooperation of others to act with one's own energy. 

In short, self-valuation and the ability to take part in a social organization form a live force. This moral 
construction cannot be acquired merely by learning by heart some lessons or by solving problems which 
have nothing to do with one's own life. Culture must be the means, for nothing shows the necessity of 
culture more clearly than finding by experience how essential it is in order to live consciously and 
intelligently, when it is life itself and not culture which is the center around which education revolves. 
Culture acquires then great attractiveness. 

To become conscious of the essential help given by it, to feel how indispensable it is to achieve 
perfection, success and therefore the joy of spirit, this is the greatest urge to study. 

It is this relation between life and culture which has enabled us to understand that children can learn 
much more than the schools of today ask of them by their curricula, and that it is in childhood that it is 
necessary to arouse the first interest, to sow the seed of all sciences. 

Man grows as a unity and if the development of an essential part is lacking, troubling complexes arise in 
the soul and in the mind. 

The realization of one's own value is just the thing which urges to association, because he who is 
conscious of his values is victorious over life, he is an energy. We have been able to see that association 
arises spontaneously even when it is merely a case of thinking and of understanding. It seems that the 
capacity of really understanding is connected with discussion, with criticism, or with assent of others. 
The satisfaction of knowing must be immediately communicated to others, and in this communication 
enthusiasm increases. True study and thinking require the same association as is required by manual 
work. It was always realized that anyone who does work which is too hard must join together with 
others: but we saw among small children that even to be able to understand it is necessary to join with 
others. Spontaneous collaboration in all manifestations of life is a fact which has come as a true 
revelation. Association gives new strength by stimulating the energies. To act in association with others 
either in thought or in practice is the only way in which the human nature can be active. All this shows 
clearly that education cannot be kept within the limits of a closed room in which the student remains 
inert and always dependent upon the teacher while being kept separate from his fellow students. 

An education so limited is insufficient even for children. 

The first reform in education must be to offer a wider environment and to multiply the possibilities of 
association and of activity. 

It is during the period of adolescence that the "epoch of germination" of interest in the construction and 
functioning of society presents itself in the individual consciousness. Now, society is built up by various 
activities and not only by purely intellectual ones. The greatest element in its construction is the growing 
sentiment of the conscience of the individual which develops through, and by means of, social 
experiences. 

The inert child who never worked with his hands, who never had the feeling, of being useful and capable 
of effort, who never found by experience that to live means living socially, and that to think and to create 



17 



THE FUNCTIONS OF THE UNIVERSITY 

means to make use of harmony of souls; this type of child will become a selfish youth, he will be 
pessimistic and melancholy and will seek on the surface of vanity the compensation for a lost paradise. 

And thus, a lessened man, he will appear at the gates of the University. And to ask for what? ... To ask 
for a profession which will render him capable of making his home in a society in which he is a stranger 
and which is indifferent to him. He will enter into society in order to take part in the functioning of the 
civilization which he does not feel. 

No, it is not possible to take the human being into consideration only when he is a man, the human 
individual must be taken into consideration much before. He who one day wants to see before him a 
man, must first have sought the child. To detach the various phases of life is absolutely absurd. 

Man is the result of a child. Every man is the achievement of a grown-up child; the causes of good or of 
evil in the adult must all be sought for in the very short period of the child's growth. 

The separation made between the interests of the child and those of the adult, both in education and in 
social questions, reminds me of a dispute which took place in the Middle Ages between two cities which 
possessed notable relics: one had the skulls of the Three Wise Men of the East when children; the other 
had the skulls of the Three Wise Men of the East when adults. 

This fatal criterion, this kind of psychic barrier which neatly separates the two interests, causes grave 
errors and gives rise to dangers which affect the whole of civilized humanity. Among the means 
eminently capable of defending the safety of the people against threatening dangers no consideration 
whatsoever is given to strengthening and straightening humanity by all possible means, when it is still in 
the formative period. 

What our marvelous civilization lacks today is the strength of the spiritual man, the straightness of 
conscience which feels its responsibility, but above all the feeling that human life is triumphant over the 
cosmos: Mankind should feel itself King of all that has been created, transformer of the earth, builder of 
a new nature, collaborator in the universal work of creation. 

He who arrives at the University has left behind him childhood and adolescence: he is a formed man. A 
great part of his social destiny, of the success of his studies will depend on how he was formed. 

What interests him now is the "mission of man". 

He should certainly not be limited to the acquisition of that knowledge which will be necessary for him in 
the exercise of his profession. University students are adults, who will be called to exercise an influence 
upon the civilization of their times. 

From the Universities educators, therefore the guides of the new generation, the leaders of the new 
humanity emerge. From the universities come those people who will be called to lead the masses and to 
defend civilization. 

When they take their examination to get their degree they will be facing the gates of the world, and must 
possess a great moral preparation. They did not remain at school after they had already become adults 
merely in order to acquire a little more knowledge than others. Culture forms a great part of their 
preparation, it is true, but they could have found culture all around them, for today culture has pervaded 
the entire social environment. The functions of the university would be to intensify it and to make it 
penetrate into the conscience as a weapon for the defense of humanity and of civilization. 

As there is a religion for all, but priests and missionaries possess a religion which is more intensely 
penetrating, a religion which creates action in favor of mankind; so is culture spread everywhere and has 



18 



THE FUNCTIONS OF THE UNIVERSITY 

reached the same level among all civilized peoples; but some select people partake of it more profoundly 
and become its apostles in order to preserve civilization. 

Also, in the University preparation could be more extensive. It is true that even for children education 
cannot be carried out within the four walls of the school, so much more this must be repeated for adults. 
It is necessary even for a child to feel himself independent: man must then have already realized his 
independence. 

The social experience begun earlier must be continued, because the man who has never worked, who 
has never tried to make his own living, who has never mingled with people of different age and of 
different social classes, will with difficulty become worthy of becoming the leader of anything. This 
"value of the personality" must have been nurtured by each individual through active efforts and positive 
experiences. 

It is certainly not by philosophizing of by meditating that the conscience of modern man will be formed. 

As regards culture, it is in the very character of the University to "learn how to study". The degree is but 
the proof of knowing how to study, of how to seek culture alone and without help, of being set upon the 
path of scientific research. This is another proof that the essential task of the University is not limited to 
giving instruction. 

It is in order to study, that one has learned to study. 

A person who has taken a degree is a person who has acquired a better knowledge of how to sail upon 
the ocean of culture which has filled the world. He has but received an orientation. Therefore he is a 
studious man who possesses a compass which allows him to enter into communication with the stars 
that direct the way. 

Such is the person who has taken a degree. And if the degree, as far as its value is concerned, is but the 
capacity for studying, why then should the study at the University be limited to 3 or 6 years? The man 
who studies at the University knows already that he will have to study all his life or lose his value. Why 
then so much bustle, during those few years, for the acquisition of culture which will have no end? 
There must be another kind of formative help, an effort to become keenly aware of the needs of one's 
own time and to permeate oneself with civilization. 

It will be of great advantage for a really studious man to begin to conquer economic independence 
during the period of his university studies. Many a young person, while attending the University, is 
already a private teacher, or a journalist, and artist, or a merchant, and even a common workman or a 
waiter. Many have already situations in broadcasting companies or in diplomacy. 

These workers are more likely to study for the love of study and of human progress, and not for the 
immediate and direct purpose of a profession. If they take one or two years longer in their studies, what 
does it matter? Considering that their study will never cease, why should they take so much trouble to 
obtain in the shortest possible time the advantages which the degree affords them; when they are 
destined, if they wish to keep up with the ever rising level of efficiency, to pursue the new things which 
are continuously being elaborated in the field of their profession? 

One can study while one works to make one's living. All those who wish to become University professors 
do it. They go on studying, but they do not go to school, they make a modest living just to be able to 
study and reach higher levels in the future. They even marry and have a family which will later attain a 
high social position. 



19 



THE FUNCTIONS OF THE UNIVERSITY 

A man who studies must not be worried as a child by examinations, nor fear the scoldings of a father 
who is forced to support him by what little means he possesses. He should not resort to subterfuges in 
order to get good marks, nor dishonor himself because he cannot keep chaste. 

A man must first of all know how to achieve his own independence and moral equilibrium. 

I believe that all possible facilitations should be given in order to create some form of work to confer 
economic independence on the students of the University so that each may really be free to study and be 
able to find his own place in accordance with his own value. 

I shall finish by comparing the life of man to the three stages of the life Christ. 

Behold at first the miraculous and sublime Child. 

This epoch is the period of "creative sensibilities," of mental construction, of such an intense activity that 
it is necessary to sow in this period of life all the seeds of culture. 

Then comes the epoch of adolescence, epoch of inner revelations and of social sensibilities. Christ as a 
boy, forgetful of His family, is heard to discuss with the doctors. He does not talk as a pupil, but as a 
Teacher, dazzling by the flashes of His light. But later He devotes Himself to manual work and exercises 
a craft. He shows that the adolescent should be able to manifest his hidden treasures and at the same 
time work and be initiated into a craft. 

At last, comes the Man who prepares Himself for His mission in this world. 

And what does He do for this preparation? 

He confronts the Evil One and overpowers him. This is the preparation! 

Man possesses the strength of becoming aware of, and of facing the dangers, the temptations of the 
world so as to become inured to them in order to overcome them. 

The temptation to be overcome are literally those illustrated in the Gospel: The temptation of possession 
and the temptation of power. 

There is something in man which stands above them: he is able to understand what is required to create 
a very powerful, a very rich, and a purified world. 

There is only one way: that each individual know how to overcome the temptations of power and 
possession. 

That is the path of his Kingdom. 

But in order to attain this level through education, it is necessary to seek the child and to consider him 
under a new aspect. 

Maria Montessori 



20